Oregon orders 12 million at-home COVID-19 tests


Aaron Kunkler


Oregon has made its largest order yet of COVID-19 tests that will be offered to people around the state for free so they can find out, at home, if they are carrying the virus, and take steps to prevent its spread.

Oregon Health Authority placed an order Wednesday with iHealth Labs for 6 million of its COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test kits. Each kit contains two tests – amounting to a total of 12 million tests coming to the state – that can be performed at home, with results available in 15 minutes.

OHA’s previous largest order was for about 1.46 million Abbott BinaxNOW rapid tests. Of that, the agency has distributed nearly 1.3 million tests to almost 400 community partners and more than 1,300 K-12 schools.

“Oregon learned during the Delta surge that we must be prepared for the unpredictable – we knew we had to be ready for future variants so we could continue to protect the most vulnerable in our communities while keeping our schools, businesses and communities open,” said Gov. Kate Brown. “As cases rise in Oregon and across the nation due to the Omicron variant, we are applying the lessons we have learned to support our hospitals and health care workers, and arm Oregonians with the information and tools they need to keep themselves and their families safe. Through vaccination, wearing masks, and utilizing widespread testing, we can make it through this latest surge the same way we have before – working together to protect each other.”

The kits will be distributed throughout January and will begin arriving next week at OHA’s warehouse in Wilsonville, where they will be disseminated to numerous OHA partner agencies and organizations.

OHA does not have the capacity to individually send out tests, so it will prioritize distribution to the following partners that can disseminate them to their communities as they see fit:

  • Local public health authorities and Tribes, based on population size and some health equity metrics.
  • Migrant and seasonal farm and agriculture workers.
  • Head Start and some other high-risk early learning settings.
  • K-12 schools to support at-home test to stay.
  • Health care workers.
  • Shelters.
  • Community-based organizations.

From Jan. 3 to Jan. 7, the OHA warehouse will receive six trucks delivering about 1.1 million test kits. Starting Jan. 10, the warehouse will receive five trucks per week – for five consecutive weeks – until the order is fulfilled. Since iHealth Labs is planning to ramp up product of the test kits, Oregon’s order may be fulfilled ahead of schedule.

The test kit order comes as Omicron continues its steady overtake of Delta as the state’s dominant COVID-19 variant. With its high transmissibility, Omicron is already thought to be driving a steady increase in hospitalizations over recent days.

As the number of cases increase, rapid testing will be critical to efforts to encourage people to take steps that reduce transmission, including isolating and quarantining at home, wearing masks and face coverings, keeping their distance from others and getting vaccinated as soon as they’re healthy.